Hong Kong - Two prominent Hong Kong democracy activists, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, vowed to keep fighting after they were released on bail late Friday following their arrest alongside four other political figures in the past 24 hours.
The duo face charges related to a June demonstration at Hong Kong police headquarters, including inciting others to participate in an illegal assembly and taking part in an illegal assembly. Wong faces separate charges of organizing the demonstration.
Chow told reporters the government was attempting to create "white terror," referring to a bloody crackdown on political dissidents in Taiwan in 1949 that led the ruling Kuomintang party to instil martial law until 1987.
The term has been appropriated by Hong Kong protesters in recent weeks.
"We can see very clearly that the [Beijing] regime and the Hong Kong government are trying to create a white terror to try to scare Hong Kong people to not participate in the social movement and democratic movement in the future," Chow said after her release.
"But the people will not give up or be scared by this white terror," she said.
Both Wong and Chow are top leaders in Demosisto, a political party that advocates for self-determination in Hong Kong.
Party chairman Ivan Lam was also charged with incitement in the same case, according to court documents, but he could not be arrested yet as he is abroad in Taiwan.
While prominent political activists, the three have not played a central role in organizing this summer's mass protests, which unlike past political movements have largely relied on crowd-sourced decisions made over social media.
Demonstrations began in Hong Kong on June 9 against a controversial legislative bill that would have allowed residents to be extradited to mainland China.
Since then, it has escalated into Hong Kong's greatest political crisis since its return to Chinese rule after the government failed to meet protest demands, prompting weeks of mass demonstration.
Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has said the bill is "dead" but most protesters, who have numbered in the hundreds of thousands, say they do not believe her.
They also see the long arm of Beijing interfering in Hong Kong's semi-autonomy, which was promised to the former British colony until 2047.
Others arrested on Friday include District Councillor Rick Hui, pro-democracy legislator Cheng Chung-tai and former student Althea Suen for participating in separate protests over the summer.
Andy Chan, the head of the banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party was separately arrested on Thursday night Hong Kong International Airport.
Following the arrests, Civil Human Rights Front, a broad democracy coalition, announced that it would cancel a planned march for Saturday. The march was intended to mark the five years since Beijing denied electoral reforms in Hong Kong, prompting 2014's Umbrella Movement democracy protests.
The coalition said they could not ensure the safety of participants if the march continued to Beijing's Liaison Office without police approval, according to co-convenor Bonnie Leung, which would make it an "illegal assembly."
Wong predicted on Friday, however, that residents would still protest the following day, whether or not a legal march had been planned.
"Whether they ban the rally or not, whether they arrest me or not, people will still come out to Hong Kong [protests]," Wong told reporters "Hong Kong should not be ruled by tear gas."
Hong Kong, a former British colony, is a special administrative region of China with special rights and privileges until 2047 under the "one country, two systems" agreement.
EU foreign ministers expressed concern at the latest developments in Hong Kong, during informal talks in Helsinki.
"The developments in Hong Kong, especially over these last hours, are extremely worrying," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, calling on the authorities to respect the freedom of assembly and expression, as well as the right to peaceful demonstration.
"We remain of the view that the situation must not escalate further; that the people who are taking to the streets are making use of their right to assemble and express their opinion," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.dpa